John DePetro/The MMQB
John DePetro/The MMQB

1924 Scheduling Letter Between Rivals

The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

This is how scheduling got done in 1924: You wrote a handful of letters and waited for replies. There was no set calendar at the beginning of the season, and games could be added midseason. In ’24, eight years before the institution of playoffs, the Kenosha Maroons played five league games, winning none, and the league champion Cleveland Bulldogs played nine, winning seven.

If you think the Buffalo Bisons’ plea for a December meeting with the Chicago Bears seems terse and annoyed, you’re probably right. There was bad blood between the teams. In ’21, Buffalo owner Frank McNeil (his team was then called the All-Americans) felt good enough about a 8-0-2 finish to declare their season over pending a championship awarded by the league, but decided to play two more games that he announced to local media as exhibition contests. He dumped some loaner players, watched his team shut out the Akron Pros 14–0, then had the All-Americans take an overnight train to Chicago for a friendly rematch with the Staleys the next day, Dec. 4. (Buffalo had beaten Chicago earlier that season).

Chicago won 10–7, and then Staleys owner/coach George Halas squeezed in two more games to try to put Chicago ahead in the standings. Chicago won one and tied the other, matching Buffalo’s record despite McNeil’s insistence that his team’s last two games were exhibitions. The league decided that Chicago was the champion, thanks to a rule stating that a rematch carried more weight than the first game. In Buffalo, the disputed ’21 title became known as the Staley Swindle.

— Robert Klemko

E.F. "Tommy" Hughitt starred as a player and coach for the Buffalo teams of 1921 and '24. (John DePetro/The MMQB)
E.F. “Tommy” Hughitt starred as a player and coach for the Buffalo teams of 1921 and ’24. (John DePetro/The MMQB)

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1 comments
craigbhill1
craigbhill1

Love this history, the prehistoric times when the league flew by the seat of its pants like a barnstormer. Even tho teams like the Rams drew 102,000 for games in the 1950s, the league remained minor until the Unitas championship game of 1958. Millionaires around the country took note of the interest and concomitant revenue growth, the AFL was formed and started playing in 1960, and when competition begins, massive p.r. improvements follow, and the nfl has never looked back since.

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